Run with the Horses

 

 

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Run with the Horses

Text: Jeremiah 12:5

Dr Alex Tang

 

Text

5 “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (NIV)

 

 
 

Sermon Statement

God is with you, will give you strength and will not let you face problems more than you are able to overcome

 

Context

Translation[1]

Jeremiah:

 18 The Lord made it known to me, and so I knew; then You showed me their evil deeds.

 19 But I was like a gentle lamb led to slaughter; I had not known that they devised plots against me:

“Let us destroy the tree with its sap, and let us cut him off from the land of the living,

that his name be remembered no more.”

 20 O Lord of Hosts, who judges righteously, who tries the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

 

The Lord:

21Therefore thus said the Lord concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hand,” 22Therefore thus says the Lord of Hosts, “Behold, I will punish them; the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; 23 and none of them shall be left, for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.”

 

Jeremiah:

 12:1 Righteous are you, O Lord, even when I contend with you, nevertheless I would present my case to you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?  2 You plant them and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; You are near in their mouth but far from their heart.

3 But you, O Lord, have known me; you see me; and you try my heart toward you. Pull them out like sheep for slaughter; and set them apart for the day of slaughter.  4 How long will the land mourn? And the grass and every field wither?  Because of those who dwell in it, the beasts and birds are swept away. Because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”

 

The Lord:

 5 “If you have raced on foot and they have wearied you, How will you compete with horses? And if you trust in a safe land, How will you do in the jungle of Jordan?

 6 For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you.  They are in full cry after you; do not believe them, even though they speak good words to you.”

 

Introduction

Jeremiah’s Times

686     Manasseh becomes sole king

648          Josiah born

642     Amon succeeds Manasseh as king

640     Josiah becomes king

633     Josiah at 16 seeks after God

628     Josiah at 20 begins reforms

627     Jeremiah at 20 called as prophet

621     Mosaic Law found in the temple

612     Nineveh destroyed as Nahum prophesied

609     Josiah slain in battle at Megiddo; Jehoiakim becomes king

605     Babylon defeats Egypt at Carchemish;

                                       Daniel, others taken hostage to Babylon;

                                       Nebuchadnezzar becomes king of Babylon

604     Nebuchadnezzar receives tribute in Palestine

601     Nebuchadnezzar defeated near Egypt

598     Jehoiakim set aside; Jehoiachin rules from December 9 to March 16, 597 and is deported April 22 to Babylon

597     Zedekiah becomes king in Judah

588     Babylon lays sedge to Jerusalem on January 15

587     Jeremiah imprisoned (Jer. 32:1–2)

586     Zedekiah flees July 18; destruction of city begins August 14; Gedaliah killed and Jews migrate to Egypt against God’s command October

 

Today passage involves Jeremiah’s fourth message focused on Judah’s broken covenant with her God. Though the message itself is undated, several markers help date the passage to 621 BC., six years after Jeremiah began his ministry around the time of King Josiah death by Pharoah Neco. Prior to that the temple was being repaired as part of King Josiah’s reforms, and a copy of the Law was discovered in the renovation (2 Chron. 34:14-33). Several of Jeremiah’s references seem to allude to this discovery of God’s Law and the realization  of the broken covenant. Jeremiah called on the people to heed the words of the covenant that Josiah read to them (11:6; 2 Chron. 34:19-32). The specific portion of the covenant God mentioned was the terms that regarded obedience and disobedience to His Law (cf. Deut. 28).

Though King Josiah forced an outer conformity to the covenant, his reform did not penetrate the hearts of the people in a lasting way. Thus, under Josiah, the ancient feasts and worship were reinstituted. Thus too Habakkuk, the troubled Levite whose thoughts are recorded in the book that bears his name, came to Jerusalem and took a leading role in the revival of public worship. But Habakkuk was a worried, deeply concerned man. In spite of the outward signs of revival under Josiah, Habakkuk sensed the deep-seated evil which still revealed itself on the hills of Judah and in the injustices which marred his society. There were even rumours of royal child sacrifice to Chemosh.

After Josiah died the people returned to their idolatrous ways. Among the people was a conspiracy to abandon the covenant. Instead of heeding the warning of Jeremiah they returned to the sins of their ancestors to serve false gods. The people responded to Jeremiah’s rebuke by trying to kill him. This is the first episode in their continuing opposition to his ministry.

Challenges

 

 

People

Lessons for us

(a)    The plot on Jeremiah’s life (11:18-20)

(b)   The refusal of the people to listen to Jeremiah and repent (11:21-23) and “Why does the wicked prospers?” (12:1-4)

(c)    Idolatry

 

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out,

 

If you stumble in safe country,

 

(a)    Jeremiah’s family and the men of Anathoth

(b)   The nation of Judah and the nation of Judah and the surrounding nations

(c)    Spiritual warfare

 

(a)    more suffering for Jeremiah as he continue to prophecies

(b)   God’s judgment on Judah (12:7-13) and God’s judgment on the surrounding nations (12:14-17)

(c)    Idolatry

how can you compete with horses?

 

how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

(a)    Jeremiah’s family and the men of Anathoth, the royal household, the nation of Judah (12:6)

(b)   The nation of Judah and Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites, Ammonites, Babylonians

(c)    Satan

 

 

 

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out,

how can you compete with horses?

If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

 

Jeremiah was tired and burnt out. Ministry during the peaceful reign of King Josiah and the state support of religion has worn him out. He is not seeing fruits in his ministry. People are not repenting but making a great show of religiosity.

Jeremiah is worn out by contenting or racing with men and stumbling in a safe country.

He is tired and he started complaining to God.

 

What is God’s  response?

“Poor Jeremiah, working so hard, you need a break.”

“Don’t worry, things will be easier than now on.”

“It’s okay, just do your job.”

 

Actually God said,

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out,

how can you compete with horses?

If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jer.12:5)

“Jeremiah, you think what you have suffered is bad, wait till you experience what will be coming for you!”

What is next is that you will be racing with horses and walking through the thickets of Jordan.

Future challenges for Jeremiah

(1)   conflicts with false prophets

(2)   into the stocks by priest Pashhur

(3)   threat of death (cistern) and imprisonment by King Zedekiah’s officials

(4)   taken to Egypt

(5)   acting out prophetic parables

                                                               i.      buying and burying a linen belt – how God wishes to ruin Judah’s pride

                                                             ii.      buying a jar of clay and smashing it – how God will smash Judah

                                                            iii.      make and wear a yoke of wood – Babylonians will enslave Judah

Is God being nasty to Jeremiah?

Reverend Doctor George Campbell Morgan D.D. (9 December 1863 – 16 May 1945) was an evangelist, preacher and a leading Bible scholar. Morgan was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London from 1904 to 1919, and from 1933 to 1943. His preaching and weekly Friday night Bible classes were attended by thousands. Known as prince of expositors, Preaching Magazine ranked him among the ten greatest preachers of the 20th century. His paramount contribution to the Christian faith lay in teaching the Bible and showing people how to study it for themselves. Superbly gifted, he dedicated his insight and eloquence to a single objective: communicating God's truth with scholarly integrity, rhetorical lucidity, and arresting relevance. Morgan published over 60 books and booklets, many of which are still available today.

G. Campbell Morgan notes,

“God never calls a man to content with horses until He has practiced him with footmen; that God has never yet send a man into the wilds of Jordan until He has trained him in the land of peace. It is a great principle, always obtaining in God’s method with His servants, and in all His dealings with His people” (G. Campbell Morgan, Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah, 1994, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 91).

Lessons for us

1.     God has helped we in our struggle with our problems in the past and is helping us in the present

“God is with you, will give you strength and will not let you face problems more than you are able to overcome”

At the beginning of his ministry, God has promised to make Jeremiah a fortress, an iron pillar and a wall of bronze. Jer. 1:18, 19

18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.  19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. 

Morgan proclaims,

“Victories won where they seem impossible, are assurances that they will be won where they seem impossible”  (G. Campbell Morgan, Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah, 1994, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 93).

“The one thing no man can take away from us is our victory of yesterday, and its prophecy of victory tomorrow” (G. Campbell Morgan, Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah, 1994, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 93).

2.     God is sovereign (God has his own timing ) (12:7-17)

“Can God suffers?”

“Can God feels pain?”

The divine lament portrays God as also suffering because of evil, evil from the hand of his own people. This passage gives us a rare glimpse into the consternation and anguish that evil causes God. The anguish is especially acute for him when his own people are responsible for it. In these verses the Lord expresses both love and hate for his people, emotions we usually consider mutually exclusive, at least for God. When the Lord opened himself up to his people in love, he also opened himself to the possibility of hurt.

These verses present an image of God as passionately involved with his world and his people. It is amazing to think that evil can cause God the same anguish that it causes man. Passages such as this forever discredit the image of God as dispassionate and removed from his world.

God would forsake and abandon Judah and turn her over to her enemies. By describing the nation as His house, His inheritance, and the one He loved, God was indicating that the judgment was not coming from the hardened heart of a capricious king. Though He wanted to do just the opposite, God was forced to judge because of the people’s sin. The nation had become like a lion who had raised her voice (roars) in opposition to Him.

3.     God is with us

We are involved in spiritual warfare. One of the most powerful weapons the Enemy has against us is discouragement and despair. It is his WMD (weapon of mass discouragement). Paul writes to the Ephesians,

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

(Eph. 6:12-18)

4.     God will help us in our struggle with our problems in the future

“God is with you, will give you strength and will not let you face problems more than you are able to overcome”

5.     God’s judgment is just

A note about the destruction of the men of Anathoth: The account of the return from exile recorded in Ezra-Nehemiah states that 128 men of Anathoth returned with the exiles (Ezra 2:23; Neh 7:27), so the destruction was not complete[2]

 

Issues

 

 

People

Lessons for us

 

(a)     The plot on Jeremiah’s life (11:18-20)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(b)     The refusal of the people to listen to Jeremiah and repent (11:21-23) and “Why does the wicked prospers?” (12:1-4)

(c)     Idolatry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you stumble in safe country,

 

 

(a)     Jeremiah’s family and the men of Anathoth

 

 

 

 

 

 

(b)     The nation of Judah and the surrounding nations

 

 

 

 

(c)     Spiritual warfare

 

(a)     God has helped we in our struggle with our problems in the past and is helping us in the present

 

 

 

(b)     God is sovereign (God has his own timing)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c)     God is with us

 

(a)     more sufferings for Jeremiah as he continue to prophecies

 

 

 

 

(b)     God’s judgment on Judah (12:7-13) and God’s judgment on the surrounding nations (12:14-17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

how can you compete with horses?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

 

(a)     Jeremiah’s family and the men of Anathoth, the royal household, the nation of Judah (12:6)

(b)     The nation of Judah and Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites, Ammonites, Babylonians

 

 

 

 

 

(d)God will help us  in our struggle with our problems in the future

 

 

 

 

(e)God’s judgment is just

 

 

Conclusion

 “God is with you, will give you strength and will not let you face problems more than you are able to overcome”

The LORD:

If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?

Morgan:

“In my contending with horses, I shall also and again be weary; but I shall win, for I have already won by Thy strength in running with footmen” (G. Campbell Morgan, Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah, 1994, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 93).

 

The LORD:

If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

Morgan:

“that He is God, though in the wilds I shall oftentimes be assaulted by fear, yet I shall win, as I have won in the land of peace” (G. Campbell Morgan, Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah, 1994, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 93).

 

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

download sermon (mp3) here


 

[1] Craigie, P. C. (2002). Vol. 26: Word Biblical Commentary  : Jeremiah 1-25. Word Biblical Commentary (174). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[2] Craigie, P. C. (2002). Vol. 26: Word Biblical Commentary  : Jeremiah 1-25. Word Biblical Commentary (179). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

 

|posted 29 August 2010|

               

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